Monday, December 10, 2012

Parenting Christmas Lights

Yep - you read that right.  I think there's a major parallel here between kids and Christmas lights.

As I was putting them up, I came across some tangles - of course.  The harder I pulled, the tighter they became.  And, then it was even harder to untangle them.  Only if I gently, slowly, looked for where the knot started, and carefully undid it, did it come clean nicely.

You see it, don't you?

Last night, after I asked my daughter to clean up her lego wrapper mess on the chairs in the dining room, I saw her start to climb on top of the table.  Putting Scream Free Parenting aside, I took her head off - she began to sob majorly and then replied back in a very sad manner;  "I was getting your trash, too, that's in the middle of the table."
Don't you hate it when that happens?
It took her a while to calm down, lots of back-rubbing and apologizing on my part.
It would have been way easier if I had waited to see what she was doing before I decided to blow up.  We probably could have avoided the whole thirty minute quieting scene that followed the explosion.

Message:  Don't pull hard when trying to untangle - look for where the knot is, and gently, slowly, unravel - or, just wait and let it come out all on it's own.  And, if you pull too hard - you just might break the lights.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Took Food From a Homeless Woman Today

We were having lunch together.  Next to her chicken and potatoes was a piece of corn on the cob.  She doesn't have enough teeth to eat it.  But, since it was already on her plate, she couldn't give it back, so she offered it to me and I took it.  It was actually quite tasty.  We had a wonderful meal together.  Sandra (not her real name) and I are sisters.  All we talk about is Jesus.  We haven't seen each other in about a month so we had a lot of catching up to do - we shared more than a meal, we shared tears and laughter;  and I want to go back again and again and do it all the time.
I'm addicted to it.
There's a reason Jesus tells us to take care of "the least of these".

I made another woman sore and breathless (she really did it, I just told her what to do).
She wanted a workout - we both loved every minute of it.  Why?  Because at the end she said, "I did it!  I finished a workout - I'm so proud of myself!"
Who wouldn't want more of that?

But then I heard something.  I heard that one of the older women there had been talking about my daughter - on more than one occasion.  And ya know what she says?  She says, "that little six year old was the one who played carpet ball with me and finally taught me how to have some good, clean fun!"

2 Corinthians 8:14 says "Your plenty will supply what they need, so that, in turn their plenty will supply what you need."  Supposedly, this means that as we give to those in need, one day, we may be the ones in need and someone can give back to us.  But, I would like to propose a different meaning;  As we give out of our abundance to others, we will see how much they really have to offer us - something our hearts deeply need.  Something that we want more and more.

"It's in the places where you're not supposed to belong that you'll learn the most.
It's with the people you were never supposed to meet that you come to understand the world better...
And it's in those people that you really encounter Jesus in a way you never knew him before."
- Jim Wallis

Today was one of those days.  And it was very, very good.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Just The Facts, Ma'am

I know I'm not suppose to be blogging right now, and I'm not - I'm fasting from blogging to use the time I spend thinking about writing to, instead, pray for discernment for the five awesome individuals in charge of deciding what to do with the 3 million $$ deficit that is hindering their plan in building the Family Plex in East Garfield Park, Chicago.

They are going to do this project - they have $13/$16 million raised, but they are at a stand-still and need to re-assess what is most important to the neighborhood.

This morning, while I was praying - I was told to lay out the facts for YOU, to see if YOU might just feel a little nudge in your spirit to use some year-end giving towards this amazing project.  I would have waited until the end of the 40 days, but at that point, they will have to be ready to make a decision.

Breakthrough currently works with 21 pre-schoolers, but they have a massive waiting list, and could work with 150 pre-schoolers with the addition of the Family Plex

The land where the Family Plex would go (replacing what is below) is pictured in my previous blog, but since you can't see everything in detail, here's what it really looks like:

Broken bottles
Broken down cars
Drug lines
Gunfire, stabbings, rape sites
It represents highly concentrated poverty over the last 40 years.

A new form of Christianity is rising up.  One of "relocation".  People are actually moving into neighborhoods that no one else would, in order to help transform them.  These people are living out what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit - knowing they have Jesus living inside of them with HIS POWER!  They are humbling themselves, as Jesus did, rather than trying to make themselves famous, as most of the world does.  With this can come transformed lives, AND transformed neighborhoods!

Here's the link to the site, Dream Big!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I've started a couple posts that haven't resolved themselves.
Got me to thinkin'... Since Breakthrough is asking us to fast from something in order to pray for discernment for them regarding the Family Plex initiative - why not use all this wasted thought energy and channel it into something more productive?
So, that's what I'm doing.  They have a page on Facebook entitled  Breakthrough's 40 Days of Discernment:
It is here where prayer during this 40 day time period which started on Monday, Oct 22, will replace writing and thinking of writing.
This is the photo of the land that we are praying for - the place I would love to work one day, and the neighborhood that has taken hold of my heart, as I come to know the people who call this place home.
See you in December.
- unchainedkimijane

Monday, October 22, 2012


The question came up at the dinner table this weekend:  "What will you be doing ten years from now?"
One said - "I will be driving!"
Another said - "I think, maybe, I'll be in college, right?"
And the other said - "I don't know, I don't want to think that far, finishing college, I guess..."
As I was thinking about my answer while listening to theirs, my grin turned around because I hadn't thought about this one before, and I was baffled.  "I will be fifty and at home with my young driver."

I wanted a better answer.

Ten years didn't sound like that much at first.  Then I went backwards and realized that it really is a long time:
Ten years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom with an almost three year old, and a two month old.  I was happy with two girls, and would've gotten the surgery to firm that up had the option been there in the delivery room.  I would have said something like, "ten years from now, I will have an almost teenager and a ten year old, and I will be training for triathlons all day long while they are in school."

I never would have dreamed that I would have a face full of dimples greeting me at 6:30 am every day 

Or, that I would have an awesome large dog who would be the man of the house

That I would enjoy a good cup of hot tea over a bottle of Pale Ale 

That I would rather stay home and read a book than go out at night 

That I would no longer be comforted by Chubby Hubby Ice Cream, but by a song called "10,000 Reasons"

Or, that I would rather be hanging out at a homeless shelter than swimming, biking or running.  

I wanted a better vision of what my life would look like when I am fifty.
I sat on that for a couple days, then I realized that I don't.

I don't want to be able to know what I will be doing in ten years because I don't want to limit God.  I want to put my whole life in His hands to do whatever He wants to do because He has shown me that His plans for me are way bigger and cooler than my own.   So now, I'm living expectantly about the next ten years, and as I go into my Monday, I am pretty jacked about that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Using the "F" Word As A Christian

I don't swear.  Anymore.
At one point in my life, as a sophomore in high school, when I was dating a bad boy who had a potty mouth, I, of course copied him because he was cute.
Now, it's a turn off.
EXCEPT on Fridays, when I'm cleaning the house while the kids are in school and turn on Pandora radio super loud (so I can hear over the vacuum) to Mumford and Sons, and "Little Lion Man" comes on.
I love that song - and I love singing the whole thing - even the "F" word in it!  (when no one's listening)
And I don't feel any guilt when it releases itself from my lips.
I had to figure out why.
There's actually no parental advisory on it, either.
If you haven't heard it, here's the link:

Then, the other day, when my girls had been beefing and were sent to sit on the stairs together to discuss what they had each done wrong and what they could have done differently, it came to me.  Rather than blaming each other (which is always easier), I would actually like them to sing the chorus of this song to each other.

"But it was not your fault, but mine,
and it was your heart on the line,
I really f-ed it up this time,
didn't I, my dear..."

They say one of the hardest things to do is admit when you are wrong.
When we stop pointing the finger at the other person, we take responsibility, we no longer give them the power to control our happiness.
I think a lot of marriages would experience the power of forgiveness, friendships would be restored, and I also think our kids need to hear us admit when we're wrong, too.  I could sing this to my kids after yelling when I shouldn't have, or forgetting to pick them up from soccer...

Don't worry, I'm not teaching this phrase to my kids, though it would be nice to hear every once in a while - maybe in twenty years.

King David would have totally sang this to God after his Bathsheba and Uriah incidents!  He says it in Psalm 51:4, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."

If we did this - it would be revolutionary.

I think this phrase appeals to people because of the vulgarity in it - while it forces us to humble ourselves at the same time.  For some, I think it would be easier to apologize this way because of the word involved, and admit when we've hurt someone's heart.  For others, it would be easier without the word.  At least with the passion they display in singing it - you know it's genuine.  Not just a lame  "sorry, now can I get off the stairs."

But when we confess like this before the One who made us...

"Count yourself lucky - you get a fresh start,  your slate's wiped clean
God holds nothing against you
and you're holding nothing back from Him.
When I kept it (my sin) all inside
my bones turned to powder...
The pressure never let up...
Then I let it all out;  I said
"I'll make a clean breast of my failures to God."
Suddenly the pressure was gone - 
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared."
Psalm 32:1-5 (MSG)

Chains are broken and we are free!  And we can then sing a different song...  "Amazing Grace".

Monday, October 15, 2012


I've been reading a book called One Month To Live, by Kerry and Chris Shook.  My kids saw the title and said "how sad", but it's not - it's exciting.  The subtitle is "thirty days to a no-regrets life".

The idea is that if you only had one month left to live, how would you make every day that you had really, really matter?  The authors are encouraging us to live lives of passion, living out our dreams, forgiveness, thankfulness, integrity, risk, and authenticity.

After my last post, I was feeling a bit exposed.  It's amazing how people can put signs in their yards or bumper stickers on their cars, but when I lay out my thoughts,(and re-worded a few afterwards to clarify a little), it felt as if I were showing too much.  Then I read a chapter from this book today that made me feel a little better entitled: "Last Call".  The first quote is by Tim Keller:

"Say what you want to say 
when you have the feeling and the chance.
My deepest regrets are the things I did not do,
the opportunities missed and the things unsaid."
(Guess I won't have that problem.)

Here are some more lines from the book that helped ease the pain of possible over-exposure:

We have to risk vulnerability to the point of possible rejection. 
Been there, done that.  Yes, I often wear my heart on my sleeve, but at least you know what you're getting in to.  I think it's easier than hiding.  The more honest you are, the less you have to remember, right?

We have to know how to take off our armor so we can connect with others...  and to be willing to risk our hearts and reveal who we really are.
When we drop our shield, our true selves are displayed.  One of my very first posts was titled "Naked", and it was about the freedom that exists when armor is dropped - so, I guess, this is where I was headed all along.

So, out of the thirty chapters, I've got one covered.  And, I'm starting to think that it's good.  Discussion on deep stuff is avoided.  Most people are afraid of it because when someone disagrees with us, our pride gets in the way and we want to argue rather than discuss.

I think it's a pretty cool idea to live like we're dying.  Maybe with the exception of getting rid of all your belongings and making sure someone will take over your parental responsibilities.  I don't think I'd go climb any more mountains in these thirty days (but I'm glad I did).  I think I'd pour into my kids like crazy, making sure they know everything I could possibly teach them, but especially LOVE.  I don't think I'd read any more books.  I'd write a lot - while my kids are sleeping, instead of while they're trying to play with me.  I think the stratosphere sky-diving that the Austrian dude is gearing up for would be pretty cool, but with thirty days, I don't want to waste so much of it floating in the sky by myself.  I would pray like crazy for my friends and loved ones.

The Script wrote a song called "Live Like We're Dying".  I just heard it while walking around in a store this weekend, and never realized that it means the same thing as this book.  Kris Allen, from American Idol sang it, so it's escalated a bit.  In it they say "Sometimes we hide behind skin that's too tough".  Sloughing off tough skin and dropping armor are synonymous.  They both lead to freedom and a new re-juvinated spirit to live like we're dying!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Dilemma...

Since I was eighteen and able to vote, I've been heavily influenced by an extremely right-winged male for my choices at the pole.  Now I am older, no longer influenced in the same way, and have grown a heart for the poor.  This has left me to make some big-girl decisions within the next month, one of which, I want to make wisely.  I don't like ambiguity, so I'll spill it:  I'm passionate about marriage, life of the unborn, and helping the poor.  I've read Shane Claiborne's and Jim Wallis' blogs, and I really enjoy them; but since Jesus isn't running for President, we don't have that choice.  Since some things will be made law, and some things are up to our own choosing, we need to figure out which ones should be which, right?

The Ten Commandments: 

No other gods, only ME
No carved gods/idols
Do not misuse the name of the LORD
Observe the Sabbath
Honor your father and mother
No murder
No adultery
No stealing
No gossipping
No coveting
(Exodus 20)

"All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."  (Acts 2:44-45)

The way I see it - or, the way God seems to be showing me, is that whatever goes against the Ten Commandments should be a law (marriage & life of the unborn).  But whatever does not, should come from the heart of a believer, or, "the church" (taking care of the poor).
God gives us free will.  He does it so that He will be glorified.  
He is glorified when we choose to let Him live through us by living a life of worship - and taking care of "the least of these".  The believers that are talked about in Acts 2 chose to do this out of their own hearts.  They gave their hearts to the Lord, and He tuned them to what makes beautiful music.  Yes, He wants us to take care of the poor, and if all of the church tithed, we could!  But, more importantly, He wants transformed hearts that are willing to spend themselves, because this is where true life is found.
So, it looks like I will be leaning right once again...
Feel free to comment.  Politics has never been my strong point, but I'm trying, and my ears are open...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Not A Fan

So, one of my new favorite authors/bloggers/Christian woman, Jen Hatmaker, recently wrote a blog post entitled "Not a Fan" - she was needing some comedic relief from her more serious posts on world hunger and stuff like that, so she went this route, and encouraged others to do the same - for a lighter read - I like that idea.
The first thing she was not a fan of was party favors, and since I completely agree, I have tried to come up with my own list of five more.  By the way, the directions were for stuff like ketchup that comes out too fast or something like that, nothing deep allowed.

1)  Not a fan of carpool pick up.  I do a lot of carpooling.  Usually to and from soccer practices.  And I always take the "to" shift.  I can get away with this because I have younger children, and there is that bedtime thing, but it is so much quicker to just dump the kids out of your car instead of fearing being the last one at pick-up, so you show up 10 minutes early, just in case they get out early (which they never do) - and end up waiting for 20 minutes because they're running late.

2)  I am not a fan of meetings.  I don't know if it's a pride thing or what, but I really feel like these are a waste of time.  Any time I head a committee (one) I do the email thing now.  Meeting at Starbucks is nice if you really enjoy the people, but it ends up being more like a social than a meeting in that case (and those I don't mind).  But stuff like coaches meetings, and board meetings, I would rather read a book.

3)  Not a fan of water slides.  I am amused at the parents that really enjoy going down these with their kids.  I actually think it's great that their wired that way, but I am not.  I actually got a nasty bump on my back from being a wonderful mom and going down one of these with my kids this summer.  Really served as a great excuse to get me out of further runs - "remember what happened to my back last time, sorry, can't".

4)  Papayas - they are gross.

5)  Aerobics classes.  I guess they are not called that anymore.  They have more trendy names like Zumba, cardio-fit, or something like that.  I can't keep up.  I tried it once - never again.  By the time I figured out the move they were doing, they switched onto something else and my brain worked harder than my body.  I sweat much better when I don't have to think about the next move.  Put me on a bike, no brains required.

Okay, there's five.  I'm sure I could come up with several more, like watering plants, but that would require reading longer, and I am not a fan of long blog posts.  It was actually pretty fun to write a post with no point, maybe I'll throw some more in every once in a while to keep you on your toes.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My 2 Minute Rant

I was at the grocery store earlier this week and an acquaintance who I had not seen in almost a year practically ran up to me like a cheerleader and her bouncy little voice said "Guess what?  I got divorced!"
Is this what the world is coming to?
I hesitantly said "I'm so sorry", because that is what I say, and what I feel, when I hear this sort of news; but she said "No, it's okay, it's better!".
She has several kids.
It is not better.
I've heard that when you get fired up about something - whatever makes you mad - gets your goat - is what you might be wired/made to do something about.  I did not know this about myself.  I just can't get it out of my mind.

Maybe my life seems better to people because God has proven Romans 8:28 to be true - I was faithful, I did not initiate leaving, I did all I could to preserve our family, and God has taken that and worked it out for good.  But He still says "I hate divorce." (Mal. 2:16)  And, so do I.

So, since the Leave It To Beaver blog for my married friends was such a hit; maybe this is a good angle for me.
It's not the better way -
It's not the way it's supposed to be -
Fight for your marriage; it will be worth it!
And the next time someone comes up to me and gleefully says "I'm getting a divorce", I just might have to slap her around a bit, because, according to Ezekial 33, that's my responsibility.  And I can inform her that according to statistics, ten years after a divorce, 80% of individuals regret it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Baby oil, Sun-in, Coppertone #4, Lemon juice, flipping over every thirty minutes.  Yes, my mom taught me well; but this is not the sunbathing I am referring to.

More like the warmth you feel on these cool autumn days in Chicago when you're outside freezing and the sun pokes out on you, and you just sit there soaking in as much warmth as you can.  Or, the lit-up grassy patch that you go sit in because it's ten degrees warmer than the shady spots.

"God is a gentleman, He does not force Himself upon us"
Like the sun.  It warms us if we let it.

The other day, I had the pleasure (not), of dealing with a temper tantrum.  Hang with me - it ties in.  After my own time-out, I attempted an embrace and got the Heisman push away.  You know how it is; they just want to have their own fit, so you pretty much just leave them alone until they're done, waiting for them, listening from afar, the entire time.

"God's love never commands a change, instead, it produces one." 

"The only way self images and attitudes can be changed is by letting God love you." 

- Carl H. Stevens Jr

Did you know that the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is not seen after Jesus died on the cross?  Weird, but cool, huh?  He just wants us now, to abide in Him.  We are not commanded to love Him, but instead to receive His love, because the more of His love we sit down for and receive, the more we will fall in love with Him!  (Joseph Prince)

The temper tantrum for a child, is us standing in the shade when the sun is right over there - Or us just doing our own thing, running around without rest, while the chair to sit in and let God love us and fill us with love for Him is empty.

The song by David Crowder Band, Let Me Feel You Shine; is one of my favorites right now.  They sing a bunch of songs about how much God loves us, that, when I just sit and listen to, tend to take me to a happy place.
Breakthrough has a way cool huge picture on their wall similar to the one here, of the sun piercing through the trees.  I think that says it all.  When we can feel God's love breaking through the forest to us - we encounter a breakthrough of our own.  He changes our hearts.  He doesn't force it, He stands on the other side of the door with arms wide open waiting for us to be done with our temper tantrum.  And when we let Him love us; we are Sonbathing.  Stay in the warmth; enjoy the song below.  If it doesn't work, Utube it - it's worth your time:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Climbing on Ashes

I finally figured out why my amazing friend, who seems to know me better than myself sometimes, would want to take me on a trip to climb Mt. St. Helens.  She is smarter than I; and in her wisdom, after passing many blog thoughts through her head as we ascended, she remained silent.  And, after writing about ten pages worth of blog notes in my journal on the plane ride home, I still wasn't sold on what the main point was.  There were many sub-points, but three days post-climb, I got it.

The T-shirt we saw (but neglected to purchase) in the "Lone Fir" registration shop sums it up "We Kicked Ash".

Ashes - that's what we were climbing on.

And, that's what God has taken me out of, and brought me on top of!

Ash, according to Wikipedia, refers to products that remain after fire or incineration or combustion.  When something or someone is burned or "blows its' top" (as in a volcano) there is almost always something left over from that.  And it is through or on top of that, that we climbed over and rose above.
She accompanied me on the climb, as Jesus has accompanied me every step of the way since my little life volcano.  Both, of which, have led me higher than I'd ever imagined I would go.

When we started the hike, before the tree line, it was easy.  Just a little winded from walking up hill, but the path was clear.  There were markers that were very easy to see, nice and blue, along our path, as long as we looked up every once in a while, it was confirmed that we were going the right way.  Post-combustion, God holds our hands as we hold His, and He gently leads us out from where we've landed.

Those great theologians, Lone Star, sang in their song, Mountains, "Walking's easy when the road is flat... the good Lord gave us mountains, so we can learn how to climb."

As we passed the tree line, it got harder, and our hike became a climb.  Climbing is different from hiking because it often requires the use of your hands to keep going up.  It is more arduous, but you get to go higher, too!  It is here that the pole markers were harder to spot.  Sometimes we would just keep going, not knowing if we were going the right way; yet very comforted when we finally saw a marker, confirming each step we had labored.

As we come to the tree line with God, we can choose to stay with Him, and go higher - or just take the easy way out and go back down, foregoing the view at the top.  If we stay with Him, closely obeying Him and following His markers for us, we can see some pretty cool stuff.  And we can rise above the nasty ashes left from our lives.  The markers, here, are harder to see, you have to search for them, as in this photo - and, sometimes, you don't see them at all.  But, as He has given me a hunger for scripture, He has been rewarding me with marking posts of peace, showing me that I'm climbing the right direction.

One thing I did not like to do during the climb was to look up.  It was frustrating because the goal looked so far away, and each step was hard.  I realize that every once in a while you had to, to make sure you were following the markers, but it was more palatable to just concentrate on the step I was on at the time.  In Steven Curtis Chapman's song, Beauty Will Rise, he says "It would take our breathe away to see the beauty that's displayed out of these ashes."  I think God was telling me here that He wants us to just cling to Him each day.  He doesn't want to show us where we will be in twenty years because we won't believe it - it will seem unreachable.

But when we get there, after following those markers and persevering, we can rise above the ashes!  We can see His Glory!  And, we can move on to climb something higher.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Living Wide Awake!

I bit the bullet.
Signed us up for a family serving trip to Costa Rica - and I can't wait!
One of my daughters (I'll let you guess), even told me that this is what she's always "dreamed about doing".  Maybe I should just leave her there.  (kidding)

The dream comment is big though.  I just finished Erwin McManus' book, Wide Awake.  It took me a while because I didn't want to read it at night since it was so motivating I didn't think I'd be able to sleep.  In it, he says that our dreams - the ones we dream while awake, are God's visions for us.  The things He puts in our hearts that He has designed for us to do.

"Our dreams are where the future is fueled and created."

So, when I heard the message at church last week, and 5% of it was about getting your kids out of their comfort zone to see what the majority of the world lives like, I grabbed that, or, God grabbed it for me, and wouldn't let it out of my head until I did something about it.

I figured someone would report me if I just took them to Haiti on my own, so, of course, God saved us the last spot on the family service overseas trip with our church. Woo whoo!

So, I guess my point in writing this is - read the book, but beware!  It just might get you to do something crazy, but it sure feels awesome when the crazy thing is something God is telling us to do.  Here are some writing samples that just might whet your whistle...

"Your dreams are a foretaste of the life you can have and the person you can become.  But before you'll ever live those dreams, you have to discover a dream worth living.  That's why God is so essential to this journey and why Jesus has come for us.  Long before you took your first breath, you were a dream - a dream in the mind of the one who made you.  He saw you before you were created, and he alone knows the full extent of your creative potential."

"While some dream to escape life; you dream to live."

"To live wide awake 
is to take responsibility 
for who you are 
all the talent and potential that resides within you.  
To live an awakened life 
you must have a sense of urgency 
fueled by passion 
the courage to take initiative."

Now, you know why I didn't read this at night.
I have so much underlined, so many pages folded, I don't want to put this book on the shelf, and neither will you.  I want it to spur me on to follow the dreams God gives me, and act on them, because that's what gets the blood flowing from the heart that was designed by the Master Creator to fully live!

Monday, September 17, 2012

She Who Has Been Forgiven Much...

Loves Much

Do you remember this story?  It is recorded in Luke 7.  Jesus anointed by a sinful woman.  He (Jesus) tells a story to Simon about two men who owed money.  One man owed more money than the other, but both of their debts were canceled.  Simon acknowledged that the man who had owed a larger debt would be more grateful than the other, which was the point.  The sinful woman showed her love for Jesus so much because she knew she had been forgiven so much.

While one point may be that the more we mess up in life, the more often we can experience God's amazing grace;  I think another point is the more we REALIZE how much we've messed up, the more we grab hold of and spend our lives for Him because we realized how much we NEED it!

Brings me back to the post about my youngest daughter and her nasty notes.  A few of you have asked if it worked (see Grasping Grace post)... Two things have happened since then that show that this grace thing really might be getting through.  First, the photo:  I was a goalie - she now wants to be goalie!

The second example is a little revealing, but worth it for the analogy.  She met her dad's new girlfriend this weekend.  (I new it was coming; I'm fine, thanks to God totally taking care of my heart and holding it in His hands, I am honestly not fazed).  But, she was not.  Her eyes swelled and she wept and held me as she hesitantly shared the news with me.  She did not want my heart to be broken.
She is the only one who responded this way.
Maybe, she is realizing how much she has been forgiven.  Maybe she cares for my heart so much because she realizes how much grace she has received from me?

The sinful woman was overwhelmed by Jesus' love so she responded by giving Him everything she had.
My daughter might just slowly be realizing how much I love her, and now, the things that just might break my heart, are breaking hers.

God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins because that is the only way we could be forgiven.
When we realize just how much we need this,
we will grasp it with both hands,
we will want to become like Him,
the things that break His heart will, too, break ours.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why I LOVE my Thursdays!

I don't really mind when my house isn't clean (sometimes to the irritation of others).
I don't really enjoy dressing up (if theres a zip or a snap, my kids think I'm going out).
And, my grammar is not impeccable either (I'm sure you've noticed this).
So, I'm starting to learn why I am very comfortable, and thoroughly enjoy hanging out at Breakthrough, a Homeless Shelter (and way more) in East Garfield Park, Chicago.  Just seems to fit me better than the North Shore sometimes...

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of leading my first devotional.  I was assigned the topic, "Becoming A Woman of Strength", because that is the name of the series the group is in, and I was pinch-hitting.

My head told me - "That's perfect for you, you've been through a lot and have been able to display this!".
God told me - "You're life has been a cakewalk compared to the lives of those you're about to speak to, so, be prepared to learn a few things, My oh-so-confident child..."

For the next few hours (because conversations continued well past the designated thirty minutes), I heard about rape, eviction, cutting, drugs, prostitution, family abandonment, imprisonment, and the list could go on.

Cakewalk confirmed.

1 Timothy 4:7b - 8 has always been one of my favorite verses and was clearly spelled out for me:

"... train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." NIV

"Exercise daily in God - no spiritual flabbiness, please!
Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever."  MSG

For the past six months, I was getting to know some of these women through exercise (not a ton, mind you, because exercise is not really a top priority).  But, today, through Scripture, they showed me that "exercising daily in God" holds promise for now AND later.  That "physical health is susceptible to disease and injury, but faith can sustain us through these tragedies"(Life App. Study Bible).
A lot of these women had been saved and strengthened by God.  They knew the power that only God can put into a life that needs desperately to change.  God really DOES "give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak." (Isaiah 40:29).  They were living proof of this.  And, because they had seen the faithfulness of God, they were hungry for Him - to learn more about Him and His faithfulness.  He doesn't make their muscles sore, He re-juvinates them!  Here they were, in a homeless shelter, recounting the ways God had blessed them!!  And, they just kept talking, they didn't shut up - I loved every minute.  Unlike the Bible Studies I've often been a part of where it's like pulling teeth to get someone to talk, they wanted everyone to know what God had done for them.

Yes, I want them to exercise because I know that they will ultimately feel better and have more energy, but training in godliness "has value for ALL things."  Whether well-fed, or hungry - and HE loves to meet and satisfy those who are hungry for HIM!  The Message translation of Psalm 73:25-28 paints a picture of what I was able to see yesterday:

"You're all I want in heaven!
You're all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look!  Those who left you are falling apart!  Deserters, they'll never be heard from again.
But I'm in the very presence of God - oh, how refreshing it is!
I've made Lord God my home.  
God, I'm telling the world what you do!"

Now THAT is a picture of what strength in the Lord looks like!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Unbroken or Broken?

I had the pleasure of forcing myself to read Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, for the past two weeks in order to be ready for an interview with Louis Zamperini (the man of whom the book is about) at church this weekend.
It was an awesome book, and I can understand why it was on the New York Times best seller list for 92 weeks.
However, I could not figure out why our Pastor wanted to interview Zamperini until the last few pages.  THAT was my favorite part.

Spoiler Alert:
The title "Unbroken" characterizes Zamperini's life for 90% of the book, but in the end, he is broken, and that characterizes his life from then on.  Thanks to Billy Graham, the man who was known for his strength, allowed himself to be broken.  And, it is in the breaking, that he was made whole.  Who else can completely take away revenge from a man's heart?  Who else can repair an almost broken marriage?  Who else can restore nightmares to peace?  Jesus.  The only One who can make a broken vessel whole again.

Zamperini's unbrokenness showed others how strong he was.  But, it's in his brokenness at the end, that allowed God to come in and give himself the inner strength that others saw.  He could not see his need for a Savior until he realized his own weakness  There is a strength that we might have deep down, but it is not complete until we see our weakness and allow ourselves to be broken and filled with a strength that comes from the one who made us.  When we realize this, God can use us to do even greater things than we could have done on our own.

Psalm 66:9 - 12  resembles a lot of Zamperini's life:
"He has preserved our lives - tested us - refined us - brought us into prison - laid burdens on our backs - let men ride over our heads - we went through fire and water - 
BUT you brought us to a place of abundance!"
It is this place of abundance that Louis Zamperini is basking in, and hoping to see very soon, all at the same time.

Friday, September 7, 2012

King David Vs. Honey Boo Boo

Walking my dog the other morning, we came across two very different women.  The first shrieked in fear when he slowly approached her for a sniff.  I quickly pulled him away, though he knew he wasn't wanted anyway, and then I kinda chuckled.  I was perplexed at how someone could be scared of this goofy looking gullump.  But, it was dark, and she had headphones on, so I'll give her that.

About 20 minutes later, another one passed, stating how beautiful he was.  He proudly pursued her, tail wagging high, looking at me as if to say - come on, let's get closer to her - she thinks I'm beautiful!
(I don't think male dogs are offended by the word "beautiful", I think they really know it's a good thing).  He couldn't keep his eyes off her, and if I were wearing roller blades, I would have had a nice ride.

We are made the same way.
We follow (aim to please, pursue to reach a goal) those who tell us we're beautiful.

Okay - now we'll get into the title;  I have a confession to make.  I watched Honey Boo Boo this week.  I also have a vow to make.  I will never do it again.  I am not a fan of those shows at all, mainly because they are obsessed with promoting outward beauty.

Psalm 45:11  says this:
The king is enthralled by your beauty; 
honor him, for he is your lord."

If we follow those who tell us we're beautiful, the question is, who are you listening to?
If we are listening to man, beauty actually moves outside onto our skin and we become prideful and high maintenance.  If we are listening to God, our beauty deepens, humility grows, we are more low-maintenance (way more enjoyable to be around). 

1 Samuel 16:7b says "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

This is where David comes in.  He knew this.  God called him a man after His own heart!  He was beautiful to God because He listened to what God said of him.  The King (Ps. 45) becomes enthralled by our beauty when He sees Himself in our hearts.

As for the other little lady; she, and several others, seem to be consumed in what the world thinks of them.  And, "beautiful" is actually a way better fit for a man (or my dog) in this challenge.  When Honey meets Jesus, now that will be beautiful!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You Are My Strongest Player

In an effort to implement June and Ward Cleaver-Style parenting; I went to bed before my oldest came home from her late soccer game the other night.  She was quite wound up telling me (who could barely keeping my eyes open) all about their win and how she played.  Then right before she left, she said;  "The coach pulled me aside right before the game and told me, 'you are my strongest player, so I'm putting you in forward'".
But she doesn't play forward - for the past few years she's been playing midfield, and she started at defense when her career began at age six.  Apparently he's got new plans for her.

I woke up the next morning and heard those words penetrate from a different angle;
"You are My child, whom I have chosen, and I'm putting you in forward now."  That got me pretty pumped!
Most of us, as new Christians, start out in defense, trying not to sin.  Keeping the enemy out of the net.
Then we get to a point where we move up a little, to midfield - playing defense and offense at the same time.  Trying to avoid sin as much as we can, but starting to branch out a little, too.

Forward, however, is fun.  "But you're a goalkeeper", you say, "how can you talk about forward being fun like that?"  Yes, that's true, but have you ever seen a keeper get let out of the net when their team is  winning handily and get a crack at playing forward?  The words I often used included cages, animals, and open gates.  My focus was on their goal, do or die!
This relationship that we've been in is starting to change who we are, and give us a purpose; one that is becoming more and more clear.

In his book, Wide Awake,  Erwin McManus has a whole chapter on focus that sounded similar:

"The focus of your life isn't supposed to be your shortcomings, failures, sin, guilt, or shame - I think religion has done enough damage by focusing way too much on sin and guilt - what you have at your core shapes everything about the life you will live. And sin and guilt and shame are not where God wants you to focus your life - When you expect your dreams to become your life you find the strength and resolve to focus.
We get distracted by our surroundings and circumstances and everything happening around us, and they pull our attention away from where we are supposed to be going.

Focus allows you to live a life of full intensity.

When you are focused, you are your most powerful."

My daughter's coach wanted to channel her potential into one thing.  He didn't want a little bit spread all over the field.  He wanted everything she's got fueled towards the goal.

That's what God wants for us, too.  Are our minds scattered?  Letting all the little things around us take our us off of our goal?  God wants our dreams to come true as much as we do.  Peter was able to walk on water because he asked Jesus for this opportunity.  What seemingly impossible thing that God has laid on our hearts have we not asked God to help us to do?

FOCUS is defined as the center of interest or activity.  
close and narrow, concentrated attention.

When God tells us that we are His children; He's reminding us who is at the center of us; and that He has made us with a dream that will become more and more clear to us as we get rid of the muddle around us.  In case you don't believe me; here's some words to dwell on from the Master who made you!

"The Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, has chosen you."  Isaiah 49:7b
"God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special."  1 Thes. 1:4
"You are my servant, Israel (place your name there), in whom I will display my splendor." Is. 49:3

Friday, August 31, 2012

Grasping Grace

Her name is Mia Grace.  In Italian, that translates "my grace".  In other words - "You will need to show her My grace A LOT", is what God is was telling me in naming her, though I didn't know it at the time.

We had a run-in after bedtime, she chose to disobey, she received consequences which would show themselves the next day.  She then proceeded to write how she felt about me for those consequences, and display them all over my bedroom, before finally turning in for the night.  (From what I've heard, this is a healthy way to deal with this issue, so I was fine with it when I discovered them later that night).  I thanked her for my "love notes" the next day.  Then God said, "you need to write back to her and show her what grace looks like".  So, I took each note and wrote back "I love you" on the bottom, then arranged them all over her room.
I loved this idea; I loved doing it; and I'm not taking credit for it because God told me to.

We usually define grace as "unmerited favor".  Eugene Peterson describes grace as "aggressive forgiveness".   That's what I felt like I was doing (and I liked it!).  Jesus did that for us - loved us when we hated him.  And, he still does.  I think it's really hard to do that for others unless we know what it feels like to be the recipient of it.  And, more importantly, He helps us do it.  We can't really do it on our own.  I am learning that the more we do this, the less depressed and grumpy we are.  He also defines it (in Romans 5:19) as a wildly extravagant life -gift; not just getting us out of trouble, but getting us into life!  Who wouldn't want to give this kind of gift to someone?  It's awesome.  God loves to give it to us, and the more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more we love to give this gift of grace to others.

Tullian Tchividjian explains grace similarly;
"The only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God's radical unconditional acceptance of sinners."  (You may want to read that a few times - it's big.) This is a great parenting tip.  God radically, unconditionally, accepted us into His family when we deserved the boot.  If we can get our kids to understand the amazing, appealing, magnetizing greatness of God's grace by displaying it to them as they grow up; it can help them obey out of love AND really live!

Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us:
"Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.  He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ.  He did all this on his own, with no help from us!"  (MSG)
I soooo need God's power in me to do this with my daughter.  Embracing her from knowing how much God loves me and shows mercy to me can help take her "sin-dead" life and guide her to the One who can bring her life!

"Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us to life - a life that goes on and on and on..."  Romans 5:21 (MSG)

Do you see it?  Grace makes us come alive!  It's God's gift to us, that if we grasp - taking hold of with all our might, and reaching out to others with that same love, will show us what it means to have life to the FULL!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finding Yourself

"One of the things plaguing our generation is people trying to figure out who they are."  - Israel Houghton

I heard on the radio that a large percentage of men die within two years after retirement.  The reason for this, primarily, is because their identity is wrapped in their work - and they no longer have it, so they feel lost.  They see their worth by what they do rather than who they are.

This rung another bell with all the moms I saw at school drop-off who were really sad.  For so long we have been "mothering", that it's easy to get that stuck in our heads as who we are.  No.  It's what we've done for so long, but it's not who we really are.

I used to describe myself as an athlete.  Then God, in His infinite wisdom (and grace) relieved me of this image by allowing me plantar fasciitis, a herniated disc, torn menisci, IT band syndrome...  got the point?  He began to chisel away at my heart the things that I thought were making me who I was.  But that's just what I did, it wasn't who I am.

"Boasting in Jesus Christ frees us from the chains of all our other identities." - Matt Chandler

This picture is from Jason Gray's video of "Remind Me Who I Am".  In it, he eloquently displays that the labels we have allowed to be put on us do not describe who we are in Christ.  I tried to upload it, but can't figure it out...

"But you are a chosen people, 
a royal priesthood, 
a holy nation, 
a people belonging to God..."
1 Peter 2:9

When our identity comes from God, nothing that we lose can take away who we are.  Whether it be a spouse, a job, a child, our health, a home, or whatever.   (This truth has been a lifeline for me)

I've heard people to say that all they want for their kids is for them to be happy or successful.  What I want for my kids is to know who they are in Christ.  Because when we know this, like Punchinello, in Max Lucado's children's book, You Are Special, - the stickers don't stick.  What people think of you or do to you doesn't matter; all that matters is what your Creator thinks of you - and He thinks you're pretty awesome.

When we know the One who made us, we will no longer be in a relentless pursuit of who we really are.   We will know our Creator and He will reveal to us our worth!

"... and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Mt. 10:39

Friday, August 24, 2012

For My Married Friends

I heard on the radio that married women are beginning to learn from their married-no-longer friends about, what else... marriage!  It kinda makes sense.  Like the orthopaedic surgeon who wears knee braces to ski, even though he's never torn his ACL, we can learn from the mistakes/blunders/failures of others.  They often know what doesn't work, and will advise against those things.  So, here goes.

I found "Leave It To Beaver" on TV, and watched it with my daughter, I was pretty baffled at how marriage, rather, family life, has changed.  Yes, it is TV, but I understand it to be a decent representation of how families were.  Correct me if I'm wrong, or just go with it.
Here's what I saw:

Wally advising June on how to parent the Beave.

Ward and June leaving in the middle of the day to go to the grocery store, together.

Wally showing up well after school was over because he had a baseball game, and June and Ward didn't even know about it.

June and Ward had no idea where the boys were half the time.

I'm not discussing June's dress code.

Ward, always home for dinner, never brought business home with him, whatever that was...

My aunt and I were chatting the other day about how much more parents play with their kids now-a-days, rather than when she was a young mom.  She was complimenting that, as most people of that generation do.  BUT, and it's a big "but", it's not working.

Yes, we're playing more with our kids, but half of our marriages are ending.  Which leads me to believe, being so much more involved in the lives of our kids may not be such a good thing.  Who will you be with for the rest of your life?  Who will be with you when your kids graduate high school and leave?  Who are you going to be hanging out with when your kids get a social life?  Who should take care of you when you're sick?

While it looks like June and Ward were really neglectful in their parenting, they didn't neglect each other.  While I did not see them go out for many date nights, they hung out in the kitchen or in the living room chatting up a storm.  Heck, they even went upstairs to wake up the boys together!  They left Wally and The Beave to figure things out on their own (some might argue, too often).  While we don't see if they ended up as dysfunctional people themselves, they seem to make pretty good decisions on their own, or, at least, learn from their mistakes.  Eddie Haskel's mom probably hung out with him a lot more than her husband.

According to Scripture, a parent's job is to teach, discipline, and guide.  A spouse's job involves love, respect, cleansing, uniting, submitting, and giving up yourself for them.  It seems that today, this list is played out a little backwards.

Yes, there are faults to the Cleaver-style of parenting, for sure - I'm not saying they are the go-to model.  My point is just this;  Who are you playing with more?  Who are you giving yourself up for?  Wally and Beaver didn't need as much involvement as we do today because they had stability at home.  The best thing you can do for your kids is to love your spouse!  Happy Friday, friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Today, I Crossed The Jordan!!

Today, I woke up before my alarm went off.  I have it set pretty early, and I beat it - why??
First day of school.
I love them dearly, but it's time.  I'm not one of those with the tears in her eyes.  I'm the one holding back the scream of becoming unchained - in a different sense, of course.
I feel a little like the teenager whose parents have left for the weekend.  I don't know where to start!

I realize that some of my neighbors are sad today.  We have entered a new territory.  A new phase of life.  Our youngest child is finally in full-day school.

"It's not always easy to trade the comfortable security of the known for an uncertain future."  This was said of the Israelites as they left Egypt and headed towards the Promised Land.  I love being at home with my kids, not having to work outside the home, and I realize this was a secure place.  Each day life pretty much revolved around taking care of my kids, and now it's uncertain (not that life as a stay at home mom is routine).  But, there's a time for sowing and a time for reaping!

In Numbers, The Israelites were told to get up and take possession of the land (13:28).  They had been wandering in the desert for forty years, among grumbling, defiance, and discipline (sound familiar).  And just as they had to wait for the entire old generation to die off and a new one to begin in order to enter the Promised Land, I, too, feel like that's what the last twelve and a half years have done for me.  The old me has slowly died off (and still is), and a new me is beginning.  If God takes us across the Jordan to take possession of the land before our old selves (the old generation) are gone, then we aren't ready for it!  But now that there was a new generation, now that He's been able to work on me, refine me (at least a little), He has me way more prepared and excited to enter this new phase.

I feel unchained.  No, my kids aren't chains.  I don't really feel guilty for being excited - so I guess I'm not supposed to.  I think chains are sometimes necessary for character to grow during restraint.  We can't always get what we want when we want it.  If we did, we'd be miserable.  I will try to be sympathetic towards my friends who are grieving during this time, and hold back my victory cries; but inside, this is what I hear:

"Awake, awake, O Zion,
clothe yourself with strength.
Put on your garments of splendor,..
Shake off your dust;
rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck!"   Isaiah 52:1-2

God reserved a book for me that was written in 2008 by Erwin McManus, called Wide Awake.  If I read it any sooner, I would not have been able enjoy it half as much as I am now.  I'm not done with it, pretty much because I don't want it to end.  Here's what the back of the book says:

"He called you to live as Jesus did - a heroic life, void of monotony, teeming with danger, adventure, and the unknown.  Living wide awake is about realizing that the world desperately needs you to live up to your greatness."  

Isn't that cool?  It's extremely motivational to read that there is a hero within you waiting to be awakened, isn't it?  So, as my neighbor explained through her tears that now she didn't know what she was going to do all day, I thought in my head - I don't know what I'm NOT going to do!
And, yes, I will be ready with arms open wide to help with homework, give hugs, and especially snacks to those not-so-little cheeks!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Field Trips - Part II

I have a new favorite book.
I have been wrecked by it (in a good way) - The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne.  If you aren't familiar with him, you might want to check it out.  In this book, he portrays the life of an 'ordinary radical' that is actually quite appealing to me.
In my experiences with the poor, his words are ringing very clearly.

Here are a few:

"I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago Suburbs - 
for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other...
I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning.
And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end."

"Don't choose issues, choose people -
Fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering, and then you won't have to worry about which cause you need to protest.  
Then the issues will choose you."

I took my youngest to "work" with me on Thursday again.  This is something I really wish I did with the older two, but it wasn't a priority to me then - it is now.  I'm thrilled with what God is doing in her heart.  We couldn't get in to our original building, so we drove around a bit and she said "why don't we just do some random acts of kindness?" - Who was this child?  Seriously, did that just come out of her mouth?  I'm holding that one in my heart the next time she screams at me for not letting her have dessert.

When we did arrive at the building that our ladies had moved to that day because of a power outage in their original spot, we had no weights, so they used my 65 lb daughter on their backs - their sweaty backs - and she didn't care!  She was actually thrilled.  The one who forces me away from her when I get home from riding my bike was joyfully hugging these 'glistening' women.

I have started to fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering and the issues are choosing me.
This is as close as I can get to the Calcutta slums, and I love it.
I am learning that Katie Davis isn't so odd for living in Uganda and adopting fourteen girls - she has just been converted.
I am realizing that loving others is something that is more Christian than excluding a people group. Hopefully, as we come together, riches will have no meaning. Hopefully, poverty will eventually come to an end, and maybe we could have something to do with that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Field Trips 2012 - Best and Worst

I took my oldest daughter downtown to walk around Michigan Avenue - window shopping (I was very clear about that one), and lunch.  I did this, not because it is something I enjoy doing, but because it is something she enjoys doing.  She is twelve (and a half) and into this type of thing; I, however, am not. But I tried to be into it for her, and came to the realization that one day she will be the one taking me downtown and showing me around this bustling part of Chicago because it is clearly not my comfort zone.  After forking over $30 plus for parking, we left.  I felt depleted (and we had just eaten).   I tried to keep a conversation going in the car so it would feel like a great bonding experience, but not sure that happened this time.  She is an awesome kid - responsible, mellow, good student, and good friends, but she's a night owl who likes the busy city, and I am an early bird who is more of an introvert.

I honestly think I'd rather live on a farm.

My youngest and I went to another part of the city last week.  The parking is free here.  There's nowhere to buy lunch, so we ate first.  She is the daughter who increases my patience, teaches me to love those who act unloveable at times, shows my lack of self-control, forces me to get up while it is dark to prepare for her early arrival every day, and makes me laugh.  "Mellow" does not define her.
As we entered the Homeless shelter, she felt at home, and so did I.  She did not need my presence to accompany her everywhere, as she usually does, I think she knew who was in her.
She wanted to come with me to "work" that day.  This was our field trip.
Arloa Sutter says in her book, The Invisible, "Joy comes when we practice the discipline of engaging regularly with those who are less fortunate."
My youngest daughter was reminded what joy feels like.  She had experienced this in the Appalachian area we served at in 2011, and at the Boys and Girls club we went to earlier in the summer.  As she exercised with some of the women and made friendship bracelets with others, she didn't want to leave.

Luke 10:20 says "The Great Triumph is not in your authority over evil, But in God's authority over you and presence with you...  It's not what you do for God, But what God does for you - that's true rejoicing." MSG

She was learning that with God's presence, there is triumph, and what He does for us in that time, brings true joy.
As we left, it was quiet.  We were not depleted, but filled, I think with a silent awe.
Half way through the quiet car ride, she said,  "I want to go next week, too."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gluten Free - Why??

So, there's lots of talk now-a-days about the whole gluten-free thing.
Reasons that are not longer medical.
Mine is one of those; and I'll get to that in a minute.
I was reading a blog the other day by a woman whose writing I really respect, and still do, but I really wanted to add something and I couldn't figure out how to post a comment, so I'm just writing my own.

She was kind of slamming the Daniel Plan (basically, no whites - flour, sugar...), which I really like.  It's the eating plan designed from Saddleback Church and Dr.s Oz, Hyman and Amen - for anyone looking to get healthy.  The whole idea probably started because Rick Warren wanted to lose weight.  And he noticed that he wasn't the only one in the church that wanted to do so - then he noticed that there were donuts everywhere in the church, and a lot of church functions centered around eating...  unhealthy things.  I agreed with her that this is not for everyone.  It does seem like the Daniel Plan founders think it should be for everyone, and I don't really agree with that.   I think there are plenty of people out there who are not affected by gluten, have no food issues, and can leave a piece of pizza half eaten and be okay with that.  I, however, am not one of them.

I am the one that opens a box of Nilla Wafers and leaves none.
That's why I've been gluten free since I detoxed my body of vicodin (herniated disc) a year and a half ago with fruits and vegetables for a month and felt amazing.
Here's the Bible verse to back it up:

"If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away... And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell."  Matthew 18:8-10

To me, this says - if you want to really live life, get rid of the stuff that brings you down.  Certain foods were causing me to sin - the gluttony one.  Apples and chicken don't really cause me to sin.  Neither does broccoli or salmon or oatmeal for that matter.  I don't go buy gluten-free packaged foods because I would eat the whole bag.  I have simply chosen to get rid of some of the things that caused me to sin, and it is AWESOME!  I feel great (emotionally, spiritually, and physically).  No, it's not for everyone, other people have other things that pull them down, but, for me - and probably for several other people that are not medically deemed to be gluten-free, it is a great reason to eat clean and treat your body with really good stuff!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How To Fly!

My favorite part of the Olympics is watching the parents in the stands.  They are hilarious.  Out of the whole crowd, you can tell whose kid is racing by how the parents are or aren't watching.  My favorites have been the moms and dads in gymnastics.  They are so nervous for their kids.  I'm sure there's a lot more nervous parents in the stands but they don't show them - they should; it's great entertainment, better than table tennis.  I remember my mom having no one that would sit next to her when I played goalkeeper because she would elbow them if they were every time the ball got near me.  They say as a parent, it's like having your heart running around outside of you, and I think that's what this shows - their hearts are either going to beam or break in these situations.

I kinda think that's why God gave us free will.  He gave us the ability to choose His gift of life with Jesus or not.  He gives us the opportunity every day to make His heart soar or sink.  Yes, He loves us no matter if we fail or flourish,  just like any parent does.  But it sure would be boring for God if He just made us like robots that always please Him and can't choose to do so!  Yes, a perfect kid would be nice, but it would sure get monotonous.  Where's the excitement in that?  He wants our hearts, not hard wiring.   I realize that your child flying or flopping on the high bar is not a matter of choice for them - they would choose to fly every time.  But if they did, every time, no one would watch, and no one would get the glory!

On the flip side (no pun intended), this nervous mother is not at all what God looks like when He is waiting for us to make a choice that would either make Him look bigger or smaller in someone else's eyes.  He is BIG no matter what.  He will be glorified no matter what.  He has a ton of children that will draw others to His greatness, but He doesn't need them to do that in order to be great.  He knows that when we make choices that ultimately bring Him praise - it's our hearts that soar, too!  And, as any parent would, He wants us to fly.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Ultimate Road Trip Tag

Most of my "tag" experiences involved cars that I would see on the highway while on a road trip who were going equally as fast as I was.  It was nice to just get right behind them so they'd be the ones getting pulled over, or so I didn't really have to look at my speedometer, and I could just rest and go.  If you lost your tag because they were low on gas, or if they got to their destination before you did, eventually you would find another, but this is not the kind of tag I'm talking about.

Last year (and I don't know if this qualifies as a "tag" since it was planned, but I'm calling it that), I had the luxury of following a friend all over Germany.  I had a bum GPS in my car, and three kids, so following someone was a huge stress-relief.  At one point, however, she got off the autobahn VERY fast, I only had a split second to decide what to do, and I kept on the highway - I kept going my way (insert d_ _ b).  Why?  I do not know, and I will never do it again, but that was my natural instinct.  Several hours later, we did hook up at our destination town, but it was several hours of unrest (stated mildly) before that - Foreign country, three girls, broken GPS...  you got the picture.

Needless to say, now, if I know who my tag is and their destination is the same as mine, I will follow them wherever they take me - no matter what my own map says.  It happened yesterday, and because I had made that mistake in Germany, I did not make it again.  
Proverbs 14:12 says "there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."  
This, actually, may have been the case.  She missed her exit, I followed, she circled back eventually to get on it and we passed a fresh accident...
When it comes down to our plans or Gods - ditch our map and go with His - He knows what the end looks like.  We do not!  Even though we often think we do.

Sometimes your tag speeds way up to pass someone on a 2 lane road - if you don't go, you lose your tag, if you do go, it's exhilarating!   God likes to take us on adventures like that, too!
John 8:12 says "whoever follows me will never walk in darkness."  When we lose our tag, we feel lost.  Dark.  When we follow Jesus, He promises to keep our path lit, and exciting.  We can rest when we see the One we are following; we don't really have to think.  We have given them the responsibility for the outcome.  It's not our fault if we get lost, they led us there.  And, God actually wants that responsibility.  He asks us to follow Him wholeheartedly, and He promises us a land of milk and honey - it started way back in Genesis!

So, what does it look like when God leads?  He guided His people by cloud in the day, and fire by night back in Exodus. In Isaiah He says "Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way, walk in it."  And now, He gives us His Holy Spirit - directly in our hearts, to guide us, helping us with every decision.  It's up to us to listen to Him.

Finally - one thing I had to do was fight for my spot.  Sometimes people would want to budge in between me and my tag.  If that happened, it allowed for more people to get in, and eventually I lost sight of her.  If I kept close, but not too close, I could stick with her.  God wants us to fight fiercely for His leadership in our lives.  He is a jealous God.  He doesn't want anyone else competing for our hearts.  Stay close to Him, don't let anyone or anything get in the way of you and the One who made you for Himself, and loves you more than you will ever know!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Seal (Car, Part 2)

Not long after the jeep issue had passed, the thought of a newer, different car intrigued me.  One with better gas mileage, maybe a different color.  I didn't really like where my head was going with this, so I went on the search for a unique sticker for my own car to keep me bound to it emotionally.  I was never allowed to put stickers on my cars before because it hurt the resale value, but I'm not really concerned about the resale value because I'm keeping it.  So, I found a nice gaudy sticker to put on it that represents all of the users.  It's not going anywhere now, we're bound to it.   Immediately, I lost my interest in other cars.  I was content and satisfied with the one who had not let me down so far.  Her gas mileage was pretty lame, but she was mine.  I was not gazing longingly at anything else.  It was actually pretty cool how that worked.  No, I'm not going where you think I am with this...

Then I realized that we've been sealed like that.
2 Corinthians 1:22 says that God "set His seal of ownership on us".

A seal denotes ownership and security.

Just like the sticker I put on my car made it more "mine" to me, even though I had already purchased it - God has already purchased us through Jesus, but He puts His Seal in us when we believe in Him (Eph 1:13).  At that point, when we submit to Him as Lord, He owns us.  Some people aren't really keen to the thought of being owned, but look at the word after that in the definition - security.  Who doesn't warm up to the thought of that?  When we are sealed by God - The Creator of the Universe - He owns us and We Have SECURITY!  Revelation 9:4 says that He protects those who are sealed.

So, if you find yourself checking out other cars, just go slap a sticker on your own - make it yours - give it a sense of security.  That way, when it breaks down, you can't just go turn it in for another.  You are bound to fixing it.   And - when we fumble the ball ourselves, it sure is nice to know that once we're sealed, He's not giving up on us, either!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Do You Want More?

I want a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited - Red.
It's been sneaking up in my head for the last week or so, and they are now parked or driving by wherever I am.  I even took one out for a spin the other day, in hopes that that would curtail my desire - dumb move.
Then I took the dog for his morning walk.

It had rained a lot the night before and I walked past a very cool flow of water through a what used to be flooded area.  It had been made into some sort of a ravine for drainage.  It even funneled into a big pipe that was built under several driveways to keep the flow going in the right direction.
God told me - that's what my spirit looks like in people who don't fill themselves up with the things of this world.
Ouch... Okay, I got it.  So, if I were to fill myself up with, let's say, a jeep, the flow would stop and there would be a blockage?
Yep.  He said.

Not a minute later, I gave Him the Jeep.  He took it.  Then He showed me one of my friends who really needs some prayer and encouragement right now and I was able to hear Him and intercede.

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs"  Jonah 2:8

"The true gospel is a call to self denial.  Not a call to self-fulfillment"  - John MacArthur

"To step with Jesus into the path of self-denial immediately breaks the iron-clad grip of sin over human personality and opens the way to a fuller and even fuller restoration of radical goodness to the soul."    - Dallas Willard

I got home, feeling free as a bird, and picked up a book that a friend gave me just a few days ago called Kisses From Katie.  It is about Katie Davis, who at 18, went on a missions trip to Uganda and ended up staying for good - and adopting more than thirteen girls there.  She is very cool and I wrote about her several months ago.  This is what the back of the book says:

"Sometimes I want to spend hours talking with my best friends about boys and fashion and school and life.  I want to go to the gym; I want my hair to look nice; I want to be allowed to wear jeans.  I want to be a normal young woman living in America, sometimes.  
BUT I want other things more.  ALL the time, I want to be spiritually and emotionally filled every day... I want to be challenged endlessly...  I want to share God's love with people who otherwise might not know it."

In other words, sometimes I want a cool car to drive around in and feel the wind in my hair, I want to be able to drive over big snow banks, and take my dog for fun rides.  BUT, I want other things more.  I want to be able to drive my kids friends where they need to go - comfortably and safely, as many as needed.  I want to not to make my kids clean the garage every day so I can put my car in.  And, I want to be able to drive to the homeless shelters in Chicago not having to worry about keeping my cute little car safe...

The weird thing is, I had been working on writing about self-denial for the past week.  I was even saying that allowing ourselves to be empty so there is room to be filled with God is way more appealing than filling ourselves with stuff that we think will make us happy.  Maybe God was just trying to help me get a nice, tangible example...